The Black Falcon. A Modern Vincent Bike With Pedigree (Part 1)

On Saturday May 14th at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, CA, a venue for bikes with a pedigree, iconic motorcycles featured included: the “Bathing Suit Bike” which Rollie Free rocketed to a 150 mph world speed record in 1948, a 1929 Sunbeam Model 90 TT, Steve McQueen’s 1971 Husqvarna Cross, and in the category Custom the latest creation from Falcon Motorcycles.

Founded in 2008 in Los Angeles by industrial designer Ian Barry and his partner Amaryllis Knight, Falcon Motorcycles is specializing in hand made custom motorcycles that are built from scratch around engines of the pre and post world-war II era. The shop is involved in an ambitious project called Falcon’s Concept Ten to build 10 handcrafted one-off motorcycles (1 per year) using 10 different iconic British motorcycle engines like Triumph, BSA, Vincent, etc.

Last year, Falcon Motorcycles introduced The Kestrel featuring an engine from a 1970 Triumph Bonneville, a BSA tray and 10″ of the original Triumph headstock. Last Saturday, Ian launched his third motorcycle of the series named The Black Falcon, a one-year labor of love built from an engine salvaged from a 1952 Vincent Black Shadow with a history in the California racing scene. It was no surprise when on Saturday Amaryllis shared with me that Falcon’s new rolling piece of art just won the Quail Gathering’s “Best Thoroughbred Award”

This one-of-a-kind machine is a true concept motorcycle, so custom that everything on it, except for the engine, carburetors, rims and tires, have been designed, machined and hand made by Barry and his team. The Vincent Black Shadow was for over 25 years after its introduction in 1948 the “World’s Fastest Standard Motorcycle”. Around the 1952 engine, Ian designed the entire Black chassis (2 tanks, frame, front forks, brakes, seat, handlebars, fenders, foot & hand controls , etc.) with the intent to improve function, while giving this machine the utmost aesthetic appeal. Look attentively at the pictures. Amazing details are everywhere. 1000’s of hours were required to design, engineer and sculpt all metal parts, all combined to work beautifully together and to create a perfect overall visual sense of balance.

The forks were based on Vincent ‘Girdraulics’ but were redesigned by Barry, and fabricated from 7075 T6 aluminum,  their blades lightened and shortened, CNC-machined for precision alignment. He then used needle bearings on all load bearing, surfaces – a vast improvement over the original Girdraulics  which were prone to ‘stiction’ and speed wobbles. Once the function was assured, Barry spent the next few days hand carving them. The Black’s oil tank was fabricated from stainless steel and looks like the spinal column of a mythical metal beast. Cooling fins were built to work in unison with hollow guides inside the gas tanks to push air onto the heads and the bronze alloy cylinders that Ian also machined for accuracy, then hand-shaped fin after fin… The oil tank cap has a glass center to allow for easy viewing of oil return. On the original Vincent, the oil cap would have to be taken off every time you started the bike to check for oil return.

The Black Falcon got 2 different gas tanks, the “Roadster tank” and the “Drag tank.” They are hand-hammered aluminum gas tanks formed around carved wooden bucks, and pressed and locked on to specially designed spring loaded pins, vibration-damped by rubber o-rings. These tanks were designed with quick release gas taps so the whole fuel system can be removed in less than half a minute. The street ‘Roadster’ fuel tank can be replaced by the other “Mile Drag Racing” tank that holds only one gallon. It is fitted with a leather “chin” pad for when the rider needs to get down as low as he can for speed runs. In this configuration, the foot pegs and handlebars also adjust to drag racing positions.

Even the brakes were designed by Ian Barry and fabricated in-house. In order to stop the Black from its 140 + mph potential, the front double-sided, four leading shoe brake is more powerful than the original, and uses locomotive cylinders as brake liners. Although the rear and front wheels pay visual tribute to the finned Vincent Black Lightning racing brakes,  the Black Falcon brakes have double the original braking power. They are bigger in diameter (8” each),  mechanically much stiffer, and, with a wider braking surface area. The shocks inside the front forks and the rear swing arm are bespoke modern gas units. Due to their modern functionality, they offer superior handling plus a far more comfortable ride than on an original Vincent.

Every moving part of the engine has been balanced within one-tenth of a gram. The engine work on the Black is everything one could ever have wanted to push it to functional and aesthetic  perfection  Result is an engine significantly more powerful than the standard Black Shadow, blueprinted, bulletproofed, tough as nails and lightning fast.

So, after such a new achievement, what to expect from Ian Barry? A new machine to be created around the engine of a 1957 Velocette factory racer, one of seven ever made, or maybe the engine of a Brough Superior. Ian says that he will decide after he has taken a week off to fill his mind with “nature, time, art, movies and music.” New work will start May 23rd, and like on each of his projects Ian & crew will devote a full year to it.

Of course you will be the first to see it here exactly in 1 year.  Falcon Motorcycles. (all photography copyright of Falcon Motorcycles and courtesy to Cyril Huze)

25 Responses to “The Black Falcon. A Modern Vincent Bike With Pedigree (Part 1)”

  1. 1 uhl May 16th, 2011 at 7:17 am

    I LIKE ALOT!………..Beautiful beauty/function balance on this machine. David Uhl

  2. 2 Attila May 16th, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Unequivocally stunning. Difficult to consistently top for a 10 year run.

  3. 3 2Low May 16th, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I agree with Attila. It’s an amazing work. But it will be extremely difficult for Ian Barry & crew to continue to impress by topping this. It looks a lot like the Kestrel (not his fault) and whatever the “inside” work on the next bikes, if they look the same from outside people are going to lose interest for this type of creations. Not to minimize Falcon Motorcycles work, of course. It’s amazingly beautiful.

  4. 4 Doc Robinson May 16th, 2011 at 8:31 am


  5. 5 Dan Schmidt May 16th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Will Teutul Jr. try to make a tee shirt with this bike?

  6. 6 Luis May 16th, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Their bikes are even more amazing in person. I saw them in Carmel on Saturday and its definitely rolling art that looks rideable.

  7. 7 Derik May 16th, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Brilliant, beautiful and well thought out. Congratulations on the achievement.

  8. 8 Dave Blevins May 16th, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Looking very, very nice.

  9. 9 JT May 16th, 2011 at 10:46 am


  10. 10 Richard May 16th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I’m admittedly a restoration gut and not that fond of most customs. Beautiful craftsmanship but (in my humble) opinion it is excessive to the enth degree. Also, the choice of a vincent motor for this seems to me to be sacreligious.

  11. 11 Paul May 16th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Love it…a little to “clever” in some respects….more is not always better.
    What am I missing about the rear suspension? The rider gets a hard tail ride while the bike bends in half?

  12. 12 Frank May 16th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Looks like it operates exactly like a stock Vincent but with added springs in the seat and modern gas shocks, so an obvious improvement over the original. Seats are typically rigid mounted when swing arm suspension is used, as on bikes including modern monoshock or cantilever sports bikes. Looks sound to me, there’s really nothing to miss.

  13. 13 rogue phil May 16th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Nice stance, verry proportional.

  14. 14 Stephen Pate | Restoration Werks May 16th, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    @Richard : My life’s pursuit and business focus is the restoration of Vincents, and other machines as well. I don’t feel that way in the least, that using the Vincent was sacrilegious. Vincents were seldom kept in stock form… looking thru the books and club newsletters certainly shows one that they were heavily USED.. for either high mile touring or flat out racing!!! I trusted Ian to successfully do something that I felt had never been accomplished with the marque… and hopefully create a whole new legion of Vincent fanatics in the process. Something the marque desperately needs. I think he has MORE than accomplished this. Also, this particular machine started life as a pure racer with many Lightning internals… it was always raced, and frankly was the perfect candidate for this, as it could not reasonably be returned to stock. I’ve also incorporated a lot of Vincent history and heritage in the parts and modifications to them in the engine. It’s kind of a “greatest hits” of Vincent bits, drawing knowledge gained by the factory’s only racer, Gunga Din, as well as machines like Big Sid’s Rattler.

    Stephen Pate | Restoration Werks

  15. 15 badams May 16th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    The fact there is 1000+ hours in this bike shows just how far it can be pushed while maintaining the heritage and custom restraint.

  16. 16 jack1340 May 16th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    fantastic motors and fantastic machine! falcon the best!!!! congrats .

  17. 17 Sugar Bear May 16th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Best regards to Ian and Amaryllis ….. excellent workmanship …… I hope to be as good when I grow up!

  18. 18 Zipper May 16th, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    All I can say is “Whoomp”. ..Z

  19. 19 Brody May 16th, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    So perfect that it’s a sculpture without soul and getting quite boring. You see one (The Kestrel), you don’t want to see the brother, the sister, the cousin, etc. 10 years like that? One was enough. Barry should apply his industrial design talent to daily riders and custom bolt-on parts.

  20. 20 aft customs May 16th, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Saw the bike in Carmel & met Ian & his crew & parents. Extremely humble people & genuinly intertested in other builders work. That bike is a master piece in craftmanship & detail. I was humbled.

  21. 21 ROCKSTAR May 17th, 2011 at 12:23 am


    worthy of the Guggenheim

  22. 22 luSca May 17th, 2011 at 1:57 am


  23. 23 Wiz May 17th, 2011 at 3:57 am

    I’m with JT on this one, WOW!! Wiz

  24. 24 nicker May 17th, 2011 at 2:44 pm


    “…sculpture without soul and getting quite boring. …. Barry should apply his industrial design talent to daily riders and custom bolt-on parts….”

    So, your saying that “bolt-on parts” are not “boring” …… ???

    No wonder the Industry is in a tail spinn.


  25. 25 andy Aug 19th, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    taillight is too small

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Cyril Huze